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The Cincinnati Bengals are close to having their coaching staff finalized, which means their main focus will soon be on free agency and the 2016 NFL Draft.
While the Bengals have been good at adding quality players at bargain prices in free agency, their best players come via the draft, and this year shouldn't be any different. After finishing this past season with a 12-4 record, it was clear this team is very close to a championship, and hitting a home run with their first draft pick could be what gets them over the hump.
At this point, there's no clear-cut need with that first pick, so the mock drafts across the internet have Cincinnati taking a variety of players at different positions. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah has the Bengals staying close to home and going with Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee with the 24th-overall pick.
Jeremiah writes, "Lee is a three-down linebacker with big-time speed and athleticism." That's exactly what the Bengals need more of at linebacker to go with the run-stuffing thumpers they have in Rey Maualuga and AJ Hawk. Vontaze Burfict will be suspended for the first three games next year, and Vinny Rey is better suited as a backup and special-teams ace. Getting a guy like Lee would help make this defense truly elite after they flirted with that status last season.
Another position that could use an upgrade is defensive tackle, to find a player to go next to Geno Atkins. With Atkins being so dominant, the Bengals should be getting more production from that other d-tackle spot, which they're not getting enough of from Domata Peko.
That's why CBS Sports' Dane Brugler has the Bengals taking UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark with the 24th pick:
The Bengals have been forward-thinkers lately with their first-round draft picks and adding a young nose tackle to take over for Domata Peko makes sense. Clark is a former all-state wrestler and a lot of those maneuvers carry over from the mat.
Inside the Pylon's Shane Alexander also has the Bengals grabbing Clark with their first pick, adding, "If Clark grows into his potential, he could be a special interior defender in the NFL and a disruptive partner for Geno Atkins."
SB Nation's Dan Kadar stayed at the same position, though he has Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings as the big man in the middle that Cincinnati takes.
With Clark and Nkemdiche off the board, there's nothing wrong with falling back on Billings. He's probably the strongest prospect in this year's draft and hard to move off his spot on the defensive line.
While defense seems like the easier side of the ball to address, don't count out the Bengals taking a wide receiver in this year's draft. While A.J. Green is one of the NFL's best pass-catchers, he may not have any proven commodity next to him next season with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu hitting free agency.
Even if one or both of Jones and Sanu are re-signed, you could argue another viable receiver wouldn't hurt this offense, especially when we're talking about a late-first round pick where it's often best to take the best available player.
That's why NFL.com's Bucky Brooks has Cincy taking Baylor receiver Corey Coleman with the 24th pick.
Given the impending free-agent status of Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, the Bengals could view Coleman as a viable complement to A.J. Green as a WR2 based on his explosive speed, quickness and playmaking ability.
Of the above-mentioned prospects, which guy interests you the most for Cincinnati?